HNA tower buy reflects NYC confidence

By Amy He in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-03-22 11:07

HNA tower buy reflects NYC confidence

HNA Group's $2.2 billion purchase of a Manhattan office tower shows that the Chinese appetite for New York real estate - and trophy assets - is still there, real estate analysts said.

The deal with an unidentified partner for the 1.7 million-square-foot skyscraper at 245 Park Avenue would make it one of the priciest purchases of a New York skyscraper.

The building is being sold by Brookfield Property Partners LP and the New York State Teachers' Retirement System.

"I think HNA Group is one of the more sophisticated groups from China that are doing business here," said Scott Latham, vice-chairman at real estate investment firm Colliers International in New York.

"It's reflected in their ability to prevail in the bidding process for 245 Park Avenue. They were able to convince a sophisticated seller that they understand the asset and they could be counted on to close the transaction."

The asset is well-positioned in Manhattan, on Park Avenue right by Grand Central Terminal, and HNA Group could add value to the real estate and rent it at competitive rates, he said.

Latham said the purchase, first reported by the real estate website The Real Deal, fits in with HNA Group's attitude toward "synergistic revenues" - the company's main source of business is the operation of Hainan Airlines, which has continued to add direct flights between major US and Chinese cities.

"They're a transportation company, first and foremost," Latham said. "If you have hotels, you can direct some of the people on your flights to the hotels, and if you have office buildings, some of the people you're bringing over can open offices in the buildings you own. It's going to the next dimension to what we're seeing Chinese companies doing, which is just becoming much broader than one service line."

HNA could not be reached for comment.

News of major Chinese investment in New York real estate had slowed in recent months after several headline acquisitions in the past few years, including Anbang Insurance's purchase of the Waldorf Astoria New York hotel for $1.95 billion in 2014; Bank of China's acquisition of the 7 Bryant Park office building for $600 million in 2015; and Fosun International's purchase of One Chase Manhattan Plaza in 2013 for $725 million.

"There's enough large, sophisticated institutions with capital already outside of China that I think you'll continue to see a steady flow of transactions that are going to happen with Chinese capital," Latham said.

Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of New York-based Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers, said that major sales like HNA's $2.2 billion purchase were absent also not because institutional investors from China left, but because trophy properties like 245 Park Avenue "just don't come onto the market very much".

Hezi Jiang in New York contributed to this story.


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